I have attached the complete article below, but I am encouraged to see the public taking a stand against this product… what really is remarkable is the ability of our social media outlets like Facebook & Twitter to be used as a rally point. Much like we saw with the Arab revolutions that occurred last year. I predict we will see a lot more reaction to the food industry and the normal standards supported by the USDA in years to come.
The change is coming in how we take care of ourselves. Nutrition is the foundation.
Mar 16, 2012
The Kansas City News Network
Pink slime is, depending on your outlook, either something disgusting slipped into your child’s lunch or a fanatical food fright born of 21st-century media. The scare simmered for months on blogs and among food-safety activists, kindled a flame in stories advanced by News Corp.’s iPad-focused publication The Daily and by ABC News, and spread like wildfire across Twitter this week.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal government’s food-safety watchdog, on Thursday said it would allow schools to keep what it calls “lean finely textured beef” out of their lunches. The agency, however, still gives the product its stamp of approval. “USDA continues to affirm the safety … for all consumers,” the inspection agency said in a release on Thursday, “and urges customers to consult science-based information on the safety and quality of this product.” What critics call pink slime is meat harvested with 20-year-old technology that separates fat from beef scraps. The meat is then sprayed with a sanitizing mist and mixed in with hamburger.
It’s made by two companies, Beef Products Inc. and Cargill Inc.
Although labels don’t mark its presence, it’s in about 70 percent of the ground beef products sold in the United States, from the cheeseburger at the corner diner to the package of ground beef at the grocery store. Within those products, it can account for up to 15 percent of the ground beef mix. The proportions are typically kept low because it has a different, softer texture than actual hamburger.
The product is made in meat-packing plants, where crews take the boneless beef trimmings left over from cutting fat off a carcass. They’re mostly fat but include some muscle tissue. They warm those scraps slightly, to about 100 degrees. Then they spin the scraps in a centrifuge to separate muscle tissue from fat. The result is beef with only 5 percent fat. It’s then given what the industry describes as an anti-microbial “puff” — either a mix of ammonia and water or citric acid, like that found in oranges– to kill bacteria.
The process has distinct economic advantages. It nets about 850 million extra pounds of beef a year from the nation’s cattle slaughter, the equivalent of butchering an added 1.5 million head of livestock each weighing about 1,300 pounds. “There’s nothing secretive about this,” said Cargill spokesman Mike Martin. “It’s been fully vetted by the USDA. It’s not like anybody’s pretended it isn’t there.”
In 2008 The Washington Post sent a reporter to South Sioux City, S.D., to look at the process. It headlined the resulting article “Engineering a Safer Burger” and described the Beef Products plant as “a fortress against potentially lethal bacteria.”
But in 2009 The New York Times reported that government and industry records showed that in “testing for the (federal) school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the USDA about the effectiveness of the treatment.”
Early that year school lunch officials banned their hamburger suppliers from buying ground beef from Beef Products’ Holcomb, Kan., plant — a facility opened in the mid-1980s that employs about 275 people. That Beef Products plant made improvements, a company spokesman said, and the plant was cleared for the school lunch program later in 2009. More recently, a grass-roots campaign buttressed by bloggers and the likes of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has denounced the food as at least unappetizing and perhaps unsafe. A federal microbiologist termed the meat “pink slime,” giving it a stomach-turning shorthand that galvanized its opposition.
Last year, McDonald’s and other fast-food chains shut it out of their kitchens, and the campaign against the meat picked up momentum.
“Even apart from safety concerns, it is simply wrong to feed our children connective tissues and beef scraps that were, in the past, destined for use in pet food and rendering and were not considered fit for human consumption,” Bettina Siegel, author of The Lunch Tray blog, wrote in an online petition calling for a ban. “Tell the USDA to STOP the use of ground beef containing pink slime in the National School Lunch Program!”
By Thursday afternoon, her petition on Change.org had collected 226,000-plus electronic signatures. A response like that helped deliver a double whack to the beef industry, after a Harvard study released earlier this week warned that too much red meat increases a person’s chance of cancer and heart disease. (Despite the rotten publicity, industry analysts have yet to note a dent in cattle prices. Meantime, Beef Products has launched a rebuttal website: pinkslimeisamyth.com)
The outrage over pink slime registered the sort of quick and virulent response that seems to characterize a new media age. Janet Riley, spokeswoman for the industry group the American Meat Institute, said she’d never seen anything like it — not with E.coli outbreaks, passing worries about so-called mad cow disease or sundry health studies. “It’s been a social phenomenon,” she said. “Twitter just made it crazy.” It’s a madness she says is unfounded but daunting nonetheless.
Todd Domer, a spokesman for the Kansas Livestock Association, expressed frustration over what he saw as an emotional response to a danger without basis in fact. “These things happen, and all you can do is come back with the science,” he said.
The USDA decision to give schools a chance to opt out of lean finely textured beef purchases could have a marginal effect on prices. Cargill, which plays only a small role in the school lunch program, doesn’t expect to feel a difference. Most public schools buy about a fifth of their food from the USDA in an arrangement intended to keep the costs of those lunches lower while providing a steady market for American agricultural products. “Our food service department is doing some research and will be making a decision” on whether to exclude the now-controversial ground beef, said Eileen Houston-Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City School District. “We’ll make a decision about what’s best for our schools.” The federal government sent a mixed message Thursday, insisting the beef is safe but segregating it all the same.
“USDA,” the agency said in its Thursday news release, “only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable — including all products containing lean finely textured beef.”